Ishemunyoro Chingwere Business Reporter
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is conducting a needs assessment for the small scale mining sector in conjunction with the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development that will culminate in the development agency providing funding to address challenges bedevilling the sector.
This was revealed by Mines and Mining Development Permanent Secretary Mr Onismo Mazai-Moyo on the back of the agency having signed a cooperating agreement with the ministry last year.
Small scale mining is central to Government’s overall mineral output as the country’s geology dictates that some of the mineral deposits are amenable to small scale mining operations while others are more suited for conglomerate mining.
The development agency has this year held at least two high level meetings with the Ministry of Mines and last month sent experts to visit small scale mining operations in the Midlands, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South.
The visits are aimed at identifying some of the main problems affecting the miners and UNDP support could be a massive boost for the sector that is believed to have about 500 000 people.
“The ministry has UNDP as a partner and it is under the auspices of this development partnership that we have been meeting them,” said Mr Mazai-Moyo.
“Basically, our engagements have been around how best we can collaborate and partner in so far as identifying and addressing problems that our miners are facing, particularly small scale miners as they seek to boost production for economic gain.
“We have so far, under that framework, managed to have a UNDP team led by their consultant going on the ground to try and identify some of the main challenges affecting the small scale miners.
“Once that identification process is done, they (UNDP) will consider which areas they can then help the ministry by providing the needed finance to eradicate whatever the drawback is,” he said.
Small scale miners are key to the country’s mineral output and are actually producing more than primary producers for minerals like gold and chrome.
Some of their problems include but not limited to the continued reliance on rudimentary mining methods due to the inability to purchase the much needed mining equipment.
They also lack when it comes to exploration before undertaking mining operations resulting in some suffering huge losses as a result of working on mineral deposits that are uneconomic.
The UNDP has also taken note on the continued unsafe use of mercury despite the health hazards it poses both to humans and the environment.
There are also issues around inadequacies in the country’s legal framework, which the small scale miners say doesn’t further their interests. A recent surge in violence in mining areas is also another area of concern.